State Office of Administrative Hearings

Social Media Policy

Social Media Policy

Policy Description

Objective: To establish requirements and guidance regarding the use of social media tools for official state agency business.
Legal Cites: Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 441.180(11), 552.002; 13 Tex. Admin. Code § 6.93-.94 (social media as a state record; required policy element); 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 206.53-.54 (required agency policies on website privacy and linking)
Policy: IT 6005

The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) recognizes that social media tools allow users to quickly and easily share information with one another. In keeping with the goal of making government open and accessible, SOAH may use official social media sites to provide information related to the agency and its services. The Chief Administrative Law Judge or designee is responsible for approving the use of any social media sites by SOAH.

SOAH’s use of social media is intended to supplement the agency’s overall efforts to communicate broadly with the public on general matters affecting agency operations. SOAH will not accept or acknowledge receipt of hearing requests, case filings, requests for continuances, public information requests, formal complaints, notices, service of process, or other hearing-related correspondence through social media pages maintained by SOAH. Users should not attempt to use social media as a method of communicating for any official purpose with the agency.

SOAH will use the following policy to guide the use of the agency’s social media sites and services. This policy is based on the Social Media Policy and the Department of Information Resources Social Media Guidelines and may be revised at any time.

SOAH’s official use of social media tools for official agency business must remain in compliance with any applicable laws and rules.

SOAH defines social media as web-based sites or services that allow a person to create a profile and interact with other individuals. Interactions may take the form of chatting, instant messaging, or posting text, multimedia content, or other files. Examples of social media sites and services include, but are not limited to, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other online forums. These social media sites are hosted by third parties, and the use of those sites is governed by the social media providers’ own policies, such as their respective privacy policies and terms of service, and not by SOAH or the State of Texas.

SOAH is neither responsible for the content nor endorses any site that has a link to or from any official SOAH social media site. SOAH may make available social media applications and may publish social media content to third party sites for informational purposes only. This does not imply SOAH’s endorsement, agreement or support of any site content or sponsor. These sites are not official Texas government websites and therefore the external sites' policies apply. Please refer to SOAH’s Website Linking Policy for more information. To the extent that administrative hearings conducted by SOAH may be broadcast or otherwise distributed through social media platforms, any such broadcasts or recordings are provided only as a matter of public convenience and do not constitute the official record of an administrative proceeding.

Only public information is permitted to be posted on social media sites maintained by SOAH. If communication that takes place on SOAH social media sites involves or requires private information, communication will be redirected through other appropriate channels.

Postings from the public on SOAH social media sites become public record, and users shall have no expectation of privacy. As such, users are strongly encouraged to avoid giving out any personal information in such public forums. All content, comments and replies posted are subject to Texas public information laws and may be subject to public information requests. For more information about public information requests, please refer to SOAH’s Open Records Requests page.

SOAH is not responsible for content posted by others to any social media sites maintained by SOAH. Social media site users that enter their own personal information do so at their own risk; SOAH is not responsible for the voluntary public display of such private information. SOAH may remove postings to its social media sites that contain personally identifiable information, but neither the agency, nor its licensors or contractors, are responsible for any breach of privacy or damages caused by delays in such removal.

Information posted or shared on a social media page maintained by SOAH qualifies as a state record. Accordingly, such information will be retained or destroyed in accordance with SOAH’s Records Retention Schedule and any applicable laws or rules.

SOAH’s social media sites are third party sites with terms of service and policies that are not governed by the agency or the State of Texas. These third party sites are not official SOAH websites and the third party’s website terms of service and policies apply. SOAH does not have ownership or control of any such social media platforms, and is therefore not responsible for any user or third-party content or submissions contained on such platforms, nor is SOAH responsible for any user data or location information that may be collected by such third parties.

Visitors and users of social media services are bound by the terms of service and user agreements for the platform and are encouraged to familiarize themselves with such terms of use.

Any posts, comments, information, other communications, or material of any type or nature that others submit to SOAH’s social media sites is done solely at their own risk and without any expectation of privacy.

SOAH will not post or share on its social media pages any information that is confidential or prohibited under any law or rule. Due to legal constraints, SOAH will not address questions or comments relating to matters or issues in pending or anticipated administrative hearings, litigation, or alternative dispute resolution.

Members of the public should not post or share information that is personal, confidential, sensitive, obscene, threatening, harassing, or discriminatory, or would otherwise compromise public safety or incite violence or illegal activities.

Published content on any SOAH social media site is subject to monitoring. In order to preserve a respectful exchange of information on our pages, SOAH reserves the right to reject or remove any posts deviating from agency-specific topics, such as those related to the agency’s services, and/or those which deviate significantly from a particular conversational thread. While SOAH cannot guarantee the privacy and safety of these sites, SOAH shall maintain exclusive control of its social media accounts and will regularly monitor its pages.

Accordingly, user-generated posts will be rejected or removed if possible when the content of a post:

  • is off-subject or out of context;
  • contains obscenity or material that appeals to the prurient interest;
  • contains personal identifying information or sensitive personal information;
  • contains offensive terms that target protected classes;
  • is threatening, harassing or discriminatory;
  • incites or promotes violence or illegal activities;
  • contains information that reasonably could compromise public safety;
  • advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, or any entity or individual; or
  • promotes, endorses, or denigrates political campaigns or candidates.

In the above cases, SOAH will normally reject or remove the content without notifying the poster. Anonymous comments are considered spam and may be removed.

The views expressed in user-posted comments, replies, retweets, likes, followers, favorites, and/or links reflect those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement or agreement by SOAH, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and/or policies of the agency or the State of Texas. All content, comments, replies, and/or retweets, posted to any official SOAH social media site are subject to Texas public information laws.

Social media posts do not constitute official public comments and will not be included in the official record for SOAH. SOAH considers any opinions expressed on its social media sites as posted for discussion only and not a substitute for a formal statement in the public comment process. Comments by external parties on SOAH’s social media sites, including but not limited to replies, retweets, favorites, likes and other similar secondary postings are not considered official public testimony concerning any project or program.

Comments intended to become part of the official public comment records should be submitted in writing during applicable public comment periods, if any, to SOAH via letter or email formats as directed for each specific document available for public comment.

In accordance with Texas Government Code, Chapter 2054, SOAH must generally ensure that members of the public with disabilities have access to and the use of the agency’s electronic and information resources, including social media, in a comparable manner as persons without disabilities.

For further information, please see SOAH’s Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Policy.

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